I’ve always loved Tokyo. Even before I’d been there, I loved it, and then I loved it even more once I finally got a chance to visit. And I loved it more still after I learned to read. Y’know in the beginning of “Manhattan,” when Woody Allen talks about how much he loves New York? Well, swap out “New York” for “Tokyo” (and maybe “George Gershwin” for “Pizzicato Five”) and that should give you a pretty good idea of how I feel about Japan’s eastern capital.
Needless to say, I’ve always wanted to live there. But on my last visit to Tokyo – on my very last vacation within Japan – I realized that I’m really glad I didn’t. Not that I could have – it is exceedingly rare for JETs to be placed any closer to Tokyo than Saitama – but I’m glad I wound up in Kitakyushu.
Actually, let me restate this: it would have been awesome to live in Tokyo, totally awesome, maybe too awesome. I would have been more than glad to have lived there, and if I ever go back to Japan, I would easily choose Tokyo over Kitakyushu. Because when you live in Tokyo, you’ve got it all – the food, the entertainment, the shopping, the art, the Japanese (or the English, if that’s your thing). It’s such an awesome city that there’s little reason to leave. And many foreigners living there seldom do.
Which is fine, and understandable. But it’s also sort of a shame. One of the things that makes Tokyo so great is that it’s almost nothing like the rest of Japan – but that’s also what makes the rest of Japan so great. I loved traveling around to smaller Japanese cities, with their quirky attractions and unique histories, and to the Japanese countryside, with its gorgeous scenery, quaint onsen towns, and delicious local foods.
It worries me to think that I may not have experienced Japan’s periphery if I had lived in Tokyo. I would have missed out on so very much. But Tokyo is massive, insane, constantly changing, and beautiful in a way, with infinite backstreets to explore and the best public transit system I’ve ever seen. It also has outstanding ramen, luxury cinemas, exciting beer bars, a diverse music scene, and hundreds of other “only in Tokyo” quirks. Once you grasp how much there is to do there – and that doesn’t take long – it becomes very hard to leave.
It was especially hard this time around. But I’m satisfied with my life in Japan; I feel I made the most of it. Someday I hope to go back – I’m still not done with Tokyo, and I’ve never been to Shikoku or northern Honshu – but for now, I’m just excited to move to England.
I’ll just have to make sure I get out of London every now and then.